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Ayer Shirley Gets Two Podium Spots in All-State Track Meet of Champions

BOSTON – Just getting to the all-state championship, known as the meet of champions, is a major accomplishment for any athlete, and for a select handful of Ayer Shirley Regional High School track and field runners, not only did they compete, but they excelled. 

The Ayer Shirley boys had both an individual and a relay team make the podium in the highest level of competition in the state of Massachusetts, while the girls also saw solid contributions on the biggest stage last Saturday at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. 

Ayer Shirley junior Cole New turned some heads in the 600-meter run, exceeding his seed time and cementing a spot on the podium in the process, as he finished in sixth place overall in the state with a 1:23.06. 

“(New) was seeded tenth going into all-states,” acting Ayer Shirley Regional boys’ head coach Andrew St. Germain said. “We had a goal of him making the podium, and we put him in a situation of being able to run against the best kids in the state, he performed really well and had a PR (personal record) of basically a second.”

New’s race was the 11th fastest time run in the state this year, and because he finished in the top six he automatically qualified for a trip to this weekend’s All-New England championship. The New England meet will feature a similar seeding just outside the podium, as New is entering as the ninth fastest runner in New England. 

“He’s representing Massachusetts as one of the six people who get to compete, which is super cool,” St. Germain said. “We originally planned not to go to the meet, but Cole (New) really wants to break that 1:23 barrier. So we’re trying to give him another shot of breaking down that barrier, because we’re going to be starting his college recruitment soon. We’re going to try and get the best times out that he can, and show the college coaches that he means business.”

St. Germain says that despite New’s top level performances this indoor season, that he’s actually better suited for outdoor track than indoor. 

“I would say with his height and the way he runs, outdoor is more beneficial because of the straightaways that he runs,” St. Germain said. “He covers more ground. But he still finished as the fourth junior in the state (Saturday).”

The Ayer Shirley boys are loaded with sprinters and mid-sprinters, and strategically instead of having too many of those elite sprinters run individually, the Panthers loaded up the mile relay. It paid off, and it was a thrilling finish in the seeded heat, as despite holding a lead late in the race, Haverhill High School nipped the Maroon and White relay at the line, as Ayer Shirley settled for second. 

Haverhill won the mile relay with a 3:25.16, followed by Ayer Shirley in a close second with a 3:25.35. James Churchill, New, Jacob Teo, and Holy Cross bound senior Arthur Ribeiro made up the relay. 

“It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had as a coach in an individual relay,” St. Germain said. “We were seeded fifth, behind a lot of big schools. We got into the seeded heat and came out and our boys were flying. We split some crazy times, Churchill ran a 51.26, Teo ran a 52.29, New went 51.52, and Ribeiro ran 50.37. We lost at the line, the kid from Haverhill (Natanael Vigo Catala) is the best runner on the east coast. He’s very, very talented and runs a 47 second 400-meter. That was their last leg of their relay team and they got us at the line.”

“Our boys were pretty upset because we had the lead, but when you have someone coming at you with that type of talent, anything can happen,” St. Germain said. “We beat our seed time by over 3 seconds, which was awesome. We’re now Massachusetts number two and US number 47.”

The Ayer Shirley boys’ mile relay will forgo a trip to the New England championship, and instead focus on the National Championships that will take place next weekend. 

Making it to the all-state meet of champions is an accomplishment alone, but Ayer Shirley despite being only about 400 students strong in its school was able to capture two podium spots against schools with thousands of students as competitors. 

“It just shows the commitment of our kids,” St. Germain said. “This has been in the works for probably two years now. We started last year and transitioned a couple of kids over to the 400m. We took (New and Ribeiro) to the South Shore Invitational and since that day we knew that those two were special. And then the addition of Teo and Churchill who have been so awesome this year, so we’re excited about the group of boys that we have.”

“But it shows how we’re growing the sport at Ayer,” St. Germain continued. “In 2011 there were 12 of us on the track team for indoor and now we’re out here competing against the best of the best in the state, running some amazing times, and showing that Ayer Shirley is a really good program. Not a lot of people understand the magnitude of the teams we’re running against.”

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The Ayer Shirley girls team also made a strong impression on the biggest stage. The Panthers had one individual race, as Sastea Cherduville raced to a 25th place finish in the 55-meter dash with a 7.71 second time. 

“(Cherduville) had such an incredible race the week before, placed and shot up in the state,” Ayer Shirley Regional girls’ indoor track and field head coach Mike Seguin said. “It’s just difficult to have your best race every time you go out there. The fact that she was in two events at the highest level in Massachusetts is a major accomplishment, it’s been a few years since we’ve even competed at this all-state meet of champions. That says something about how hard she’s worked and how good she is.”

Cherduville dug deep and bounced back running a quality leg of the 4x200m relay along with Jordan Kosakowski, Elizabeth Cruz, and Chandra Eli-Johnson who collectively took 16th place with a 1:50.17. 

“The relay was one of the best teams we’ve had out there, four girls who can really move,” Seguin said. “It’s just incredible that we made it that far and that we were there competing. We’re going to be back in the outdoor season, and my guess is that we’re going to be faster. This spotlight didn’t scare these girls, I bet they couldn’t even tell you that some of the schools they were going against have thousands of kids in their school. They’re coming from a school of 400 kids. I don’t even know if there are 200 girls in their school.”

“And they were talking about coming back, and how they’re going to get better, and what they’re going to do,” Seguin said. “They’re all excited for the outdoor season, for what their plans, goals, and accomplishments will be.”


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